iii. Saturday Night
Chris lives in a gaijin house in Osaka. It’s more of a dormitory-style setup than what we have at S.G. After we got back from Tennoji, we went up to the rooftop living room, which was basically an enclosed metal roof area built up over the real roof. Inside, it was freezing. We went into a little section of it that was wrapped in clear plastic – this space had couches, cable TV, and, most importantly, two space heaters and two under-the-table heaters. Don’t get me wrong, we were still freezing our butts off and had to keep our coats on, but being able to watch wrestling, nature shows, and Pimp My Ride while drinking beers with Chris and the other guys was pretty cool.
I was amazed at how different the lifestyle of the foreigners here is compared to how we live at S.G., and I continued to be amazed by this for the rest of the weekend. Even their jobs are different: for most of them, if they’re sick, they can just call in sick. In our case, we’d have to make arrangements to have our classes covered – there are no substitutes. In the cases of the people who worked as assistant teachers, which was most of the people there (although a few new arrivals had simply come to Japan on holidaymaker visas and were still interviewing for jobs), it’s just a matter of calling in sick. In fact, in 2007 everyone at the dorm called in sick so that they could stay in and watch the Superbowl. (They thought about doing it again this year, but plans fell through.)
But in any case, these are all stand up guys – but holy cow, aside from my cousin, they’re young.
Later, the guys exchanged ideas about where to go out that night – an interesting urban and urbane Texan named Art showed us an e-mail on his cell phone suggesting that one ought to go to Club Pure for a special Valentine’s Day night and the [unprintable adjective] [unprintable noun, unless we’re talking about the garden implement] anywhere. It would have been all-you-can-drink, but only for a short while apparently (it seems that most of the time they offer all-you-can-drink on an all-night basis) – we were late getting our act together and deciding for sure what to do, so we ended up hopping between a bunch of… well, mediocre places instead. For a while we had entertained the idea of crashing a Japanese-only Valentine’s Party, but I guess we found the contact person and the means of contact (“I don’t know who this guy is; I just got an e-mail…”) a little sketchy and we wisely chickened out.
We went through the downtown, which was jammed with people, and it was then I was starting to be convinced of the scale of Osaka – until this point, I had been seeing it as a Japanese Toronto.
We finally decided to go to a club called Sam & Dave… man, I don’t even know which one we went to – they have several locations in Osaka alone – but I think we went to the Nagahoribashi location.
The clubs in Japan are different… for one thing, there’s no cabaret / bar / club licence stuff to bother with. Most people reading this know how this works, but here it is again for those who may not – in Nova Scotia, a regular establishment is permitted to be open and dispensing liquor until 2am. That’s the regular circumstance, and there are exceptions – for one, the campus bar at Université Sainte-Anne, Le château, has a special licence that allows it to accommodate patrons who are minors (of course, they’re not allowed to drink, and when there are many minors, wristbands are employed to identify those who are of the age of majority (19 in Nova Scotia) and can therefore drink). I think this limits them to two or perhaps only one after-midnight hour of serving per week, so they tend to close at midnight most of the time, but they might stay open until 1 or 2 just on Fridays. Maybe someone who knows the particulars can fill me in. At any rate, this setup is pointedly atypical, but also necessary because Sainte-Anne harbours a lot of minor students and virtually all parts of university life up there happen on campus – if they ran things up there the way things are done at Metro Halifax universities, they’d be paralyzed.
Another exception to the 2am rule is the cabaret licence. To get this, you have to offer “high quality entertainment of a calibre not normally available at other licensed establishments, including other cabarets.” Usually this means live music. If you have a cabaret licence, you can stay open until 3:30am every night.
What about dance clubs, then? They usually have pre-recorded music, and this isn’t to diss DJs, but there are lots of DJs, and they and their music are very normally available at virtually any club in any city. Well, that’s why we have multi-branded mega-clubs like the Dome and the Palace, and it’s probably why smaller cabarets like Reflections dedicate a copious amount of time to special contests and events in addition to music. The mega clubs work by dedicating an out-of-the way section to live music (the Attic and the Ale House in the cases listed here), while the majority of the floor space can be your regular hopping dance floor. Usually there’s one cover charge and one liquor licence. I don’t know if there’s free communication between the Palace and the Ale House anymore, but as far as I know all the parts of the Dome are still connected.
The dance clubs in Osaka?
I am dead serious.
Of course, I couldn’t possibly have partied that long, and I petitioned Chris for a departure around 5:30, by which time the trains were running again. Since we’d arrived at 11:30, that means we spent six hours in there. Wow. It’s definitely a record for me. I’m not much of a club person anyway, but I try to make myself go with the flow. (I say all the time that I go with the flow, but the truth is that I usually hate doing it, at least at the outset of things. I just make myself do it, because that’s what you do, you know?)
Anyway, permit me to digress a bit – I saw a very hot Angleterrian girl, English in all senses of the word, who turned out to be a psychology major after I finally worked up the nerve to speak to her. (This took several hours.) Remind you of anyone? =) [If anyone cares, I’m Scottish; well, I guess Scottish Canadian, or just, increasingly, “Canadian,” (I used to avoid this adjective because it left ethnicity to the imagination, but in my adulthood I love it for precisely that reason) and also “Islandonovascotian,” which is kind of like the Maritime equivalent of saying you’re a “Hatfield-McCoy,” but anyway…]
So I talk to this girl, but then I end up talking to her friend, a Torontonian who had gone to St. Fx. just like my cousin, although maybe the better part of a decade after him. We talked about Canadian things for a few minutes, and this second girl was elated to do so. What did she have in common with the Angleterrian? They were both JET participants, and they happened to do orientation together and were now working in the same prefecture, but in separate cities. That’s it. (Compare that to my S.G. fellows who live on the same floor.) Still, they kept in touch with each other, and they all came to Osaka to celebrate the Angleterrian’s birthday.
As I write this, I’m reminded of how C., one of our participants is always the most enthusiastic about getting us out and socializing together. She’s always the one to get us out to restaurants and events, and she does so nearly every week. However, she works as the only foreign teacher at S.G.’s downtown campus (which will be closing soon – its programs will be relocated here), and so we can go days and days and days without seeing a lick of her.
So one time we’re partying someplace and she says something like, “Ah, that’s just it – it’s amazing that I party with you guys even though I work with you.”
I said to her, “Well, no, you don’t work with us.”
She laughed and figured that that might explain it after all; maybe she is the most enthused about getting us together since she is the one who is the farthest away from us. And maybe this has something to do with why those disparate JET participants stuck together. Don’t get me wrong, I like the people I work with. I really like them. But I’m not exactly going to say to D. or F. or S. or Mt., “Heyyyyyyy, I miss you guys, let’s go to kaiten!”
So Chris and I got our things from the coin lockers and were on our way out. We headed to McDonald’s with two girls that Chris had wrangled up – they were both originally from Tokushima, and they had moved to Osaka after high school. As we ate our McBreakfast, they humouredly belittled Tokushima to no end. Too small. Not enough this, scarce that. And that’s fine; Tokushima may not be their cup of tea; Osaka (speaking in the long term) may not be mine.
Back at the gaijin house, Chris and I slept in hard. Actually, Chris slept in a neighbour’s room. And the following night he stayed at another friend’s place. And this is one of the things I had no idea about before getting there: I had no idea how good we have it at S.G..
I live in an apartment. I have a real bed, a real (albeit small) sofa-chair, a real kitchenette, and my own bathroom.
This may not sound like much! And I don’t get free internet, which Chris gets. But for an extra $50 a month, Chris gets:
- camaraderie, yes, and upstairs cable tv, yes – the former is what happily keeps him there
- shared bath with coin-operated showers (which would be a better deal for me than my gas bill is every month)
- square toilet stalls about the size of the lavatory on a commuter jet, except that the toilet takes up most of the stall… I’ll leave the callisthenics to your imaginations. There is a map of Central Asia on the wall where people write in nasty pun-ridden place names. Oh, the humanity.
- I say stalls; there is really only one toilet, the other stall has an Eastern unit.
Chris has been living there for three years.
Good on him. I sure couldn’t do it.
Anyway, Chris has a comfortable spot, with all the comforts one could want and lots and lots and lots of cool stuff, even though the whole unit is the size of my living area alone – he almost had to leave just to sleep. I’m not saying this to make Chris feel bad; I’m saying this because by being there I was imposing on him much more than I thought I would be. He was extremely gracious, and we had many good times.
Speaking about Osaka and Tokushima more generally, I love Tokushima – it’s the perfect little city. Osaka is a fine place, but it’s just a little too much. You know the Atlantic 49 commercial with the couple from Lunenburg visiting their friends in their Toronto condo? This is almost exactly the same thing.
For Sunday – or at least what was left of Sunday, we figured we’d do some exploring. And that’s where we’ll pick up with the next instalment.